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New Colours from Old Worlds - Contemporary Art from Oceania


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New Colours from Old Worlds - Contemporary Art from Oceania

An exhibition at the October Gallery London in 1998

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New Colours from Old Worlds - Contemporary Art from Oceania

  2. 2. OSCAR TOWA Warrior, 1998, Acrylic on Canvas, 132 x 102cmCover: MATH IAS KAUAGE, Satellite, 1997, Acrylic on Canvas, 206 x 119cm
  3. 3. NEW COLOURS FROM OLD WORLDS CONTEMPORARY ART FROM OCEANIA PAPUA NEW GUINEA, VANUATU, NEW CALEDONIA 13 NOVEMBER 1998 - 23 JANUARY 1999Artis Bilong Tude - Artists of TodayAlmost a century has now passed since traditional art from the Melanesian regionof Oceania made such a profound impression on the avant-garde artists of Europe.Today another phenomenon - perhaps of equal importance to that previous one -is underway. Welcome to the new era of Pacific Art!Although contemporary art movements have been steadily emerging in theMelanesian countries of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands andNew Caledonia since the 1970s, these developments havegone largely unnoticedby the European art world, This can be explained partly by the remoteness of theseislands from Europe and partly by a lack of resources and opportunities for artistsfrom the Melanesian region to promote their art effectively overseas.There has, moreover, been an unfortunate tendency for European collectors todismiss the new art of the Pacific as being unimportant, especially when comparedto the phenomenal range of tribal art produced throughout Melanesia. Whateverthe case, tribal art and contemporary art are both equally valid expressions ofindigenous cultural values. While the tribal arts celebrate and maintain theinherited traditions of the highly diverse cultures of Melanesia, the contemporaryart of today explores new experiences, and analyses the impact of events andtrends that become ever more common in the daily life of the indigenous peoples.APA HUGO, Tidal Wave, 1998, Acrylic on Canvas, 95 x 142cm
  4. 4. JOHN SIUNE, Southern Skies, 1997, Acrylic on Canvas, 118x142cmThe exhibition New Colours from Old Worlds highlights the work of some of theleading artists who, since the 1970s, have pioneered contemporary Melanesian art:Mathias Kauage, Ruki Fame and Gickmai Kundun from Papua New Guinea, andAloi Pilioko from Vanuatu. As their countries moved towards Independence, theseartists created a powerful new vision of their times, presenting images and ideas innovel ways that enabled people to understand their rapidly modernising societiesand the implications that social, economic and political change would have ontraditional mores and ways of life. Such work gained immediate popularity with thelocal audiences, since it accurately reflected, and commented so acutely upon,the fluid complexities of their own experience.For nearly thirty years, these first artists of the vanguard maintained a consistentlyinventive dialogue with the rapidly shifting pulse of changes occurring in the Pacificregion. In so doing they reconnoitred, defined and developed entirely new anddistinctively individual styles, by which each of them is now recognised. Kauage,Gickmai Kundun and Ruki Fame are today widely known and respected in PapuaNew Guinea - the same holds true of Aloi Pilioko in Vanuatu - and their art adornsgovernment institutions and other public buildings, such as universities, museums,libraries, banks and airports, as well - particularly in the sculptors case - asembellishing parks and other public spaces.Inspired by the successes of these first pioneers, a younger generation of talentedPapua New Guineans has been attracted to the possibilities offered by the novelprofession of contemporary artist, among them Oscar Towa, John Siune, Apa Hugoand Tom Deko. It is noteworthy that Kauage, Kundun, Fame, Siune, Hugo, Towa andDeko are all from the Highlands region, and that the mutual support of wantoks(from one-talking the same language, hence a clansman or relative,) has been asignificant factor along the not-altogether-smooth road to success.
  5. 5. Generally speaking there are certain cultural restraints that prevent Melanesianwomen from succeeding in such an individualistic profession as that of thecontemporary artist. Juliette Pita is the only ni-Vanuatu woman so far to have followedthis course, and of the few women from Papua New Guinea to choose an artisticcareer only Wendi Choulai, who now lives in Australia, has continued to producesignificant work. By contrast to other Melanesian countries, in New Caledonia, severalKanak women have spearheaded the contemporary art movement. While mencontinue to dominate the practice of sculpture, Kanak women, represented in thisexhibition by Yvette Bouquet, have found their strengths in painting and installationwork, neither of which forms of creative expression is traditional to Kanak society.Writing from down under in New Caledonia and from a privileged vantage point, Iam witness to and can report the achievements and rapidly spreading influence ofcontemporary Melanesian artists both within and, increasingly, beyond the AsiaPacific region. Kauage, Tom Deko and a number of talented artists that Europeanaudiences have yet to discover, created a great impression at the 1993 and 1996 AsiaPacific Triennales at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia, the majorinternational arts event of the region. The indefatigable Pilioko, together with hispartner Nicolai Michoutouchkine, mounts regular exhibitions both in Pacific and Asiancountries. Yvette Bouquet has just returned from three months as artist-in-residence inBasel, Switzerland. These highlights provide a background context to the exhibitionNew Colours from Old Worlds at the October Gallery in London.The first major collection of contemporaryPacific art has recently been established by theprestigious Tjibaou Cultural Centre in NewCaledonia, which institution will continue to playan increasingly significant role in encouragingand promoting contemporary Pacific art.Important works by each artist represented inthis exhibition feature in the growing collectionheld at this Cultural Centre. Furthermore, theNational Gallery of Australia as well as otherState and regional galleries, both in Australiaand New Zealand, have started to collectcontemporary Melanesian art seriously. Severalmajor exhibitions and events, including thespectacular Festival of Pacific Arts and theSydney 2000 Olympic Festival are beingplanned, that will both celebrate the year 2000and confirm the opening of a new era of Pacificcontemporary art.Whilst the old images and colours may havebeen transformed, little has been lost in thetransmission, and the new millennium willcontinue to witness the contemporary resurgenceof those powerful creative energies that havebeen the inspirational source of Pacific art fromtime immemorial.Susan Cochrane, Ph.D. GICKMAI KUNDUN, 1983, Father and Son,Director, Pacificlink 1983, Metal Sculpture, Height: 50 c m
  6. 6. This brochure is produced in partnership with Rio Tinto pic. RIO TINTO YVETTE BOUQUET, Lobe Perce, Acrylic on Canvas, 163 x 162cm
  7. 7. New Colours from Old Worlds: The October Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support of The International Initiatives Fund of the Arts Council of England, Air Niugini, Qantas Airways Ltd. a n d Rio Tinto pic.The October Gallery Education Programme is supported by Marks & Spencer,the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust and the Save & Prosper Educational Trust. ALOI PILIOKO Message from the Ancestor, 1996, Acrylic on Paper, 64 x 45cm Special thanks to: Papua New Guinea High Commission, London The National Art Museum a n d Art Gallery of Papua New Guinea PNG Tourism Promotion Authority Susan Cochrane, Director Pacificlink, Noumea, New Caledonia Michoutouchkine-Pilioko Foundation, Vanuatu Meg Taylor of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea The Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
  8. 8. RUKI FAME, Karim Lek (Courtship), 1988, Metal Sculpture, Height: 35cm J the October gallery24 O l d G l o u c e s t e r Street L o n d o n WC1 N 3AL Tel: 0171 242 7367 Fax: 0171 405 1851 e - m a i l : o c t o b e r g a l l e r y @ c o m p u s e r v e . c o m UK Registered C h a r i t y No, 327032- O p e n Tuesday - S a t u r d a y 12.30-5.30 p m D e s i g n e d by, E l i s a b e t h L a l o u s c h e k • Printed b y A r n i c a Fine Art Print Ltd P u b l i s h e d b y t h e O c t o b e r G a l l e r y , 1997 • ISBN 1 8 9 9 5 4 2 10 8